Harsh Light Photography – Behind the scenes of how I made this image

by Lucia

I love using harsh light for photographing drinks and today I would like to show you the “behind the scenes” of how I created this image:

What I will cover today:

  • What tools I used to create this image
  • How I incorporated the rule “number 3” in the styling 
  • What compositions I combined in this image
  • Some hints & tips to shoot with direct light

Behind the scenes – what and why

This is how I styled my scene:

I moved my table to the south window to get the best afternoon direct light.

White curtain serves to block the light – to create the shadows on the right side of the image.

Black board serves for having a black background in the final image. It also blocks the light coming through the the lower window.

I used a tripod and I positioned it opposite of the window. I tried to find the best position for the camera so the shadows created a diagonal line.

How I incorporated the rule “number 3” in the styling 

I made this image for my Instagram Food Photography Challenge and the theme for this week is The Number 3.

Number 3 is very important in food photography: composition rule of thirdsrule of 3 – objects grouped in odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye, or you need 3 objects to create a triangle – which is very often used in food photography.

So, I decided to go with this:

I used the white curtain to control the shadow on the right side of the image, so the glass on the right and the front lemon are placed in the shadow. All this helps to make the main subject pop-up more.

I also created shadows in the back of the image by the black foam and I partially placed the middle (back) glass into the shadow and partially into the light.

What compositions I combined in this image

You can apply 2 compositions into this image:

The golden triangle:

The rule of thirds

When you use the rule of thirds, it’s very important that the main subject is placed at the point, where the vertical line meets the horizontal one.


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Hints & tips to know about when shooting at a harsh light

  • shoot always in RAW and in manual mode. Images shot with a direct light have too warm temperature, you need to adjust the right white balance during the post-production. And to do this, you need to work with a RAW image
  • keep ISO at 100. My shutter speed was 1/2000 sec and focus 2,2
  • prepare the scene in advance and wait for the best shadows
  • sun during midday is the highest so the shadows are smallest. They get longer towards the evening, so it might take some time to get the image you want
  • Keep the space around the scene, so you can move around the table – to capture shadows in a diagonal way
  • Act and shoot quickly if you are changing the props. As because the sun constantly moves, your current composition can hold only a few minutes or seconds. Then the shadows changes again and they can cover some of the other props. This is also for the ice cubes! They can melt very quickly. This applies if you scene is a mix of more props and exact shadows applied into the scene.
  • If possible, keep your scene minimalistic. It’s easier to work with direct light
  • Position the shadows diagonally – it makes the composition more dynamic

The final image

Have you heard about my Photography Fridays?

If you love editing and photography, then you will love also my Photography Fridays

Every Friday I post an article about insights from my Lightroom Editing or Food Photography. These blogposts are full of helpful information, to help you to get your knowledge and skills in the food photography to the next level.

Currently I am running instagram photography challenges too to improve our skills in photography, practice some new techniques or compositions and work on our creativity. You can join the current or the past challenges as well, read more about them here.

Enjoyed this blogpost about my behind the scenes of Harsh Light?

If you like this blogpost about the harsh light photography, share it with someone who finds it useful too. 

I will be so happy if you let me know on instagram or here in comments how it was useful for you! Let me know also if you have any questions here or on instagram. If you use some of my advices, I would also love to see your images, please, tag me @healthygoodiesbylucia in the image and in a caption too.


I would love to anticipate the new photography challenge today and tell you more about it. The topic will be the Harsh light! I hope you find today’s information about direct light useful, so you can practice it more. I will post the complete article about new photography challenge on Friday, but if you have some super sunny weather in the meantime, you can start working on it!


Hi there! My name is Lucia, I am a Recipe Developer, Food Blogger and Food & Lifestyle Photographer. I am passionate about creating healthy recipes and mindful photography. 

If you are looking for a space to express your creativity and learn how to make beautiful images,  join my Instagram Photography challenges and sign up for my free newsletter, where  I share exclusive hints&tips, behind the scenes and much more.

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Anouchka Lototzky April 14, 2020 - 7:41 pm

Thank you for this very detailed ‘behind the scenes’. It is so helpful. And obviously, the image is top of the pops!

Lucia April 17, 2020 - 12:37 pm

Thank you so much Anouchka for your kind words! I’m very happy to hear, the blogpost is helpful 🤗🙏


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